The Trailer Opportunity: How Hollywood is Ignoring a Potentially Lucrative Revenue Stream

Tyler Greer

Some brands and products are more suitable for branded content than others. Perhaps the most obvious examples are the major Hollywood movie studios — a movie trailer can sometimes become a media events in its own right. Here Tyler Greer, Head of Strategy at Exponential (APAC), argues that it might be time for Hollywood to think differently about the opportunities they have.

Star Wars and Mad Max. Unless you had something more important to do, and it’s difficult to think of what that might have been, you’ll have joined the collective inhale of breath as the trailers for these two 2015 film releases went live recently. The bad news is that both movies are still months away. The good news is that Jar Jar Binks doesn’t seem to be present in either.

The two trailers are two of the hottest pieces of content on the planet – at last view having amassed more than 54 million views (YouTube only) between them with tens of millions of us taking part in a global phenomenon – watching, sharing and discussing. Despite this – and somewhat surprisingly – film studios are yet to have their own ‘awakening’ about the revenue generating potential of movie trailers.

Currently seen solely as vehicles for driving box office sales down the track, along with other merchandise and licensing opportunities to follow, their wider and lucrative potential is being ignored.

Digital platforms mean that movie trailers are now self-contained impactful, entertaining and highly sharable complete entertainment packages. With engagement being the new currency for marketers, what could be a more compelling, particularly in the case of the Star Wars and Mad Max trailers, which come with immense cultural baggage and represent genuine global moments?

Studios therefore have the ability to leverage to their financial advantage; with two key things to think about here:

Firstly, the decentralised ecosystem of video and content distribution means that Hollywood no longer needs the traditional channels it once did to promote its channels. What greater reach do we think that TV need now provide for the Star Wars release? This proposition brings with it the chance to save staggering sums otherwise devoted to marketing budgets. Yes, Star Wars is a franchise and they rarely require the sorts of money hurled at them that unknown titles do, but the savings on these established pieces are vast.

The second aspect of this is that trailers now represent a genuine revenue stream for studios, one that is being ignored. Digital technology has in many ways been the nemesis of film studios, with illegal downloads robbing them (and I use that term deliberately) of income but digital technology also means that they are sitting on highly valuable content that is not being monetised. At least not yet.

What price would a major brand pay to be hard-coded onto the start of the Star Wars trailer with a 15 second pre-roll? So that no matter where it is viewed or how it is shared, there is that brand preceding it. Hard to estimate, but I think we can agree on “stacks”. This is the studio’s property, yet it is being used to drive views and collect ad dollars for video platforms, with no immediate return to those who produced it. Hollywood has the opportunity to redress this.

Affixing brand ads to trailers gives a win to all parties. For brands it allows for the leveraging of the content-led zeitgeist that brings with it millions of eyeballs, the endorsement of shared and viral views, and the discussion that comes with this. And it gives Hollywood studies the chance to re-position trailers as the high value content with they are, and claw back some of the revenue lost thanks to this very medium. In a week, where digital technology is proving a major head-ache for at least one major studio, this could be welcome news.

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